What to do with your finished thesis

Contents

Introduction

So you have recently finished writing your thesis or dissertation – huge congratulations! What’s next? How can you make the most of your thesis? If you’ve done a good job researching your topic, now it’s time to take steps to ensure your thesis will not end up in a drawer and will instead see the world. How can you do that?

We want to help you make the most of the value you’ve created with your research and get recognition for your hard work, so we’ve put together some ideas about how you can get your research out there.

Publishing your research on our website

Firstly, if you have worked on a topic related to some of our recommended research directions, you might be interested in publishing your research on our Finished Theses page so others can read your research and learn from your experience of writing your thesis or dissertation. If you’re interested in this option, please message [email protected].

This option does not exclude the others below, since you do not need to publish the full text of your thesis on our website, just your ‘Author’s note’ and a message that people can reach out to you if they want to read the full text. Therefore, we would recommend reaching out to us to have your thesis published on our website even if you consider some of the other options below. We would love to hear from you and share your work with others.

Publishing a post on the EA Forum

If you have worked on a topic related to some of our recommended research directions, we also recommend publishing part of your research or learnings on the Effective Altruism Forum. If you’re not already familiar with the EA Forum, it’s the central place for collaborative discussion in the EA community – a community of people interested in using evidence and reason to do as much good as possible.

Why publish on the EA Forum?

If your research is related to one of our recommended research directions, this means you wrote on a topic that many people in the EA community likely will be interested in, as it’s a topic on which further research is particularly likely to improve the world. So the EA Forum is a place where you’re likely to get engagement and feedback.

How could sharing your research help you and others?

Posting on the EA Forum could help you connect with other talented, motivated people who are also interested in the topic you did your research on. You could connect with future collaborators, organisations who might want to hire you, people whose work could benefit if they know about your research, and others who could give you feedback and ideas for future research.

Here is an encouraging talk by Aaron Gertler, who moderates the EA Forum, on Why you (yes, you) should post on the EA Forum (our tips below are taken from this talk). Posting on the EA forum would mean summarising your main learnings from your thesis, so this could be compatible with the other options mentioned in this post such as publishing your research on our website or in an academic journal (since for each of these channels you would probably use slightly different text/parts of your thesis).

How do I write a good forum post?

Start by considering what you most want to get out of posting on the Forum. You could summarise  the parts of your work which encapsulate your best ideas or the main parts you are uncertain about in order to get feedback on them. For inspiration, we recommend reading through Aaron’s advice for posting on the EA Forum. We’ve summarised some of these tips on how to construct a good EA Forum post from your research below.

Beginning your post

Begin in a way that quickly gives readers context on what your post will be about.

  • Write a brief summary of the key points of your post (a few sentences or bullet points).. This lets readers more easily figure out whether they want to invest time in reading the post, and lets you draw attention to a few key points (action items, counterintuitive ideas, etc.).
  • Further points you could address in this top section are why you have written the post and how confident you are in your results.
  • For examples of posts with nice ‘top of the post’- sections see this, this or this post.
 

The main part

  • Be concise. Explain what is necessary to convey the points you would like to make and leave out anything that (even though very interesting) does not do that job. Provide a link to your full thesis or dissertation, or if it isn’t publicly accessible, consider providing your email address and let people know they can reach out to you if they would like access to the full version.
  • It is okay to be more informal here – remember you’re explaining your ideas to a friendly community. Think about how you would explain your points to a friend without losing much precision and clarity.
  • Consider that people with no background in your field will see your post.Think about whether you want to make the post accessible to people with no background in your field or if you want to only address people working in this field.
 

After you publish

Are there any questions you’d like readers to answer for you? If so, try putting each question in a separate comment at the end of the post. This makes it easier to coordinate discussion around certain questions. 

Getting further advice

You could join the EA Editing and Review Facebook group to get feedback before publishing your post on the Forum.

Publishing in a peer-reviewed journal

You could also publish a paper based on your research in a peer-reviewed journal. This is one way to get more people to see your research, contributing to global scientific knowledge. It’s great career enhancement if you want a research career or to apply for a PhD. It’s also a way of getting feedback from reviewers and teaching you more about the academic publishing process. Sometimes supervisors will help you publish your work or publish with you. This is an opportunity you should take if it’s available. Publishing is a lot easier if someone with a more established reputation is the co-author of your paper.

The publishing process

Here is a brief summary of the process for publishing in a journal, along with a few other resources:

Finding a journal 

The first strategic decision you will have to make is to select suitable journals. The resources below can help you evaluate journals using relevant criteria.

 

Prepare your paper for submission

Every journal has specific guidelines with which you need to conform. Transforming your research into a paper will take some time. The resources below should help you with this writing process.

 

Submit and revise

In most cases you simply upload your final paper online. Your paper will be peer reviewed and either be rejected, accepted or most likely before acceptance you will be asked to revise your paper and include feedback from reviewers.

Here are a few additional resources to help you understand the whole publishing process further: 

Types of journals and publishing fees

Different types of journals use different business models. Open Access journals make money from charging authors (you) a large article processing fee (APC) of up to 4000$, with an average of approximately 2000$ per article. The benefit is that everyone can access your research without barriers.

On the other hand, subscription-based journals earn money from their readers, who pay for reading the journal regularly. This means that it is cheaper and sometimes free for authors to publish there. You will also find hybrid models.

You should also look at journals that do not use any common business model. Here are some no-fee open access journals and here is another collection of journals where you can submit without fees, however, these are often less established (unless subscription based) and there may be some risk involved. Beware of predatory journals and check whether the journal you’re interested in is legitimate before publishing with them. Think, Check, Submit supports you in avoiding journals which exploit inexperienced researchers and these lists can help you identify predatory journals.

Another class of journals are student journals. There are a handful of journals which publish student research. This is usually free (or you may need to pay a small processing cost) and it is easier to get published, however these journals are not as well known, so you may want to try established journals first. 

How to cover the cost of publishing in open access journals

  • Apply for help from your university: Universities usually have funds to which members of the university can apply to cover the cost of open access publishing. There’s a list of open access publication funds here. Universities also sometimes have “deals” with publishers, giving you the opportunity to publish for free in some open access journals. You could also try asking your supervisor whether your university offers either of these. 
  • Waivers: Some publishers waive fees (partly or fully) for low-income/lower-middle-income countries, and sometimes for other reasons, although this is not a widespread practice. Here and here are two examples of such policies.
 

Publishing on a pre-print platform

Pre-print platforms allow you to quickly publish a final draft of your research paper, before it has gone through the often lengthy process of peer-review and being published in an academic journal. While the papers on a pre-print platform have not gone through a peer-review process, there are advantages to pre-prints, both to you as an individual researcher and to the research community, so this is an option we encourage you to explore.

Publishing to a pre-print platform can be useful for reasons such as:

  • Providing evidence of your research output for grant applications
  • Informing others about your findings as soon as possible so they know what research has already been done
  • Establishing scientific priority for discoveries
  • Making it easier for other researchers to read and cite your research, and the platforms are open access
  • Allowing you to receive feedback from a wide range of researchers, helping you to improve the manuscript

 

Before you publish in a pre-print journal, however, check the submission guidelines of the peer-reviewed journals you will ultimately try to publish in. Some journals will consider preprints to be prior publications and this may harm your ability to publish your paper later.

Here are some pre-print journals you may want to consider:

Applying for prizes and awards

Prizes and awards give you another kind of validation and recognition of your work and are a good thing to put on your CV to increase your career prospects both within academia and outside. Some awards may come with the opportunity to present your paper at a conference, and can result in you becoming part of a network of other researchers.

Bear in mind that submitting a paper to a journal and submitting it for awards are sometimes mutually exclusive – check the submission requirements for any awards and journals to which you want to submit your research.

What can I apply for?

We have a list of awards here and also encourage you to apply for our Effective Thesis Exceptional Research Award. You can also sign up to our newsletter to hear about awards related to your research direction.

Your next steps and staying in touch

If you continue to pursue an academic career, we can offer you further support. Please do not hesitate to reach out, for example if you want guidance on choosing a PhD programme or a supervisor. Also don’t forget about our database of potential supervisors and PhD funding database. It might also be helpful to you to hear about relevant internships, scholarships, research job offers, conferences and other interesting opportunities via our ECRON newsletter. Finally, we would also very much recommend joining our online community of students who are interested in the research directions we recommend, so you can create new connections, learn from others’ experiences and share what you learned during your research journey.

If you’ve had a positive experience with a supervisor who you think would be a good fit to supervise students working on at least one of our research directions, please let us know via this form. If you completed a PhD and would be interested in supporting students working in your area of expertise yourself, you could also apply to join our expert network. Our experts provide valuable guidance to students – they might help students identify most important and impactful open research questions, offer feedback on a research proposal or student’s ideas, or provide ongoing mentorship throughout the thesis-writing process – the role is very flexible and you can choose the level of commitment.

Congratulations on your finished research and good luck with whatever next steps you take!

Read next: Testing your fit for a research career →

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